Friday, January 16, 2009

One way to win the War on Terror

In the past, the US has won wars in part by attacking the enemy's infrastructure. However, al Qaeda and the Taliban do not have much in the way of buildings and roads. But they do get a lot of funding through the production and sale of illegal drugs. If people were able to obtain drugs legally, depriving the terrorists' of their monopoly/cash cow.

Is this country willing to legalize drugs to win the War on Terror? Think of all the drastic measures this nation took in prior conflicts: the draft, the Manhattan Project, food rationing. During World War II, Ford and GM stopped making new cars in order to save vital resources. Can you imagine Congress or the President asking these two companies to cease production today? The legalization of drugs would be a far lesser strain on our way of life than any of these.


Phil Marx said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Phil Marx said...

I don't have enough facts to support this, but I tend to believe that most of the cost of illegal drugs is added on after the initial harvest. I think the people who process and transport this make far more than those who simply grow the plants. I also think that those we list as terrorists are very low on this chain of supply, and thus very low on the profit end of the operation.

What's ironic though is that the idiotic "Use drugs and you're a terrorist" campaigns of the anti-drug zealots say otherwise. I think they're lying (at least greatly overexaggerating the facts), but if they are right, then so are you.

And no, those peole would not legalize drugs to defund terrorism. To many of them it is about some misguided moral theory that they're actually helping people. To the rest, it's just another way to add power to the government.

Robert Enders said...

I'm guessing that poppy farmers in Afghanistan makes less than growers elsewhere in the world. If the Taliban buy it at a lower cost in Afghanistan, then sell it at whatever the going rate is, then they would be making more money than other middlemen. They would be selling the raw material at the same price as other drug lords, but they would be buying at a cheaper price.

Illegal drugs is a fairly common way for terrorists to raise money. Drugs are cheap to produce, and easy to smuggle if you can find someone stupid enough to take the risks for you.

Phil Marx said...

I just pulled this report at random, so I have no idea as to it’s integrity. It was written in November of 2004. Here is what I have discerned from it.

Last year (2003), Afghani farmers earned $12,700 per hectare from their poppy fields. This year (2004), they earned $4,600.
Last year, the poppy farmers ( as a whole) received 40% of total Afghani drug revenue, while the traffickers earned 60%. This year that ratio changed to 80%/20%, in favor of the traffickers

Now just based upon these two pieces of information, I see a possible discrepancy. If their revenue (as a percentage of the whole) was cut in half, how was their actual income per hectare cut by nearly two thirds? Maybe that points to a bad report, or maybe it points to drug eradication efforts succeeding and the total income per hectare being cut. Assuming the latter, I can deduce as follows:

In 2003, farmers earned $12,700 per hectare of poppy fields, and since this was 40% of the total revenue earned from those fields, then the total revenue earned was $31,750. That calculates to $3.18 per square meter.
In 2004, farmers earned $4,600 per hectare of poppy fields, and since this was 20% of the total revenue earned from those fields, then the total revenue earned was $23,000. That calculates to $2.30 per square meter.

Now there really doesn’t appear to be any opium derivatives being sold in my neighborhood. But I can personally attest to the amount of crack cocaine or marijuana that a person can buy here for twenty bucks. If the growing, processing and distribution ratios with those products are similar to opium, then there are certainly very large add-on costs after leaving the country of origin.

In other words, what I am saying is that while Afghanistan (as a whole) only gets two or three bucks per square meter, it appears to me that the final product derived from that would bring in a comparatively huge sum on the streets of my neighborhood. If you are assuming that the production and distribution process between Afghanistan and Fort Wayne is low, I think you are mistaken.


Here’s another view on the subject. According to the report cited below, opium brings in approximately $2.7 billion dollars to the Afghanistan economy. Since it is estimated that only about 5% of this total goes to the farmers, that calculates to be $135 million. Now, according to the source cited above, we (in 2004) were planning on spending $100 million to subsidize wheat farmers in Afghanistan so they would have less incentive to grow the more lucrative opium. That $100 million would nearly buy all the opium that is currently produced there.

Now, when you consider that many of the people who are shooting at us probably don’t give a damn about geo-political maneuverings, but simply want to get the most money they can from their crops, you will have to realize that many of the guys shooting at us (or at least supporting those who are shooting at us) are only doing so because we are interfering with their farming practices.

So, how about this for a proposal. First, we put up $270 million for Afghanistan. We let the farmers continue to grow poppy, but pay them double what the terrorists are paying them for the raw product. As soon as the product is turned over to us, we destroy it. In this case, all those farmers are suddenly going to see us as their best friend. They will be cooperating with us instead of the terrorists, and this will significantly reduce the cost of our military occupation of that country.

Granted, some opium farmers might still choose to sell to the terrorists, but the increased price that we are offering will give those sellers leverage to raise their prices. And although there will be no increased cost to the other steps in the processing/distribution process, we know that when the raw material price rises, the final goods price will almost always rise by the same or greater percentage. Voila, we have just doubled the price of drugs on the streets of America. I know that many people who use drugs have a very inelastic demand for them, but raising the price certainly won’t make demand go up.


Robert Enders said...

I don't think that the Taliban are making their money by growing the stuff. They're making their money by smuggling it out the the country. We already know that they can move into Pakistan at will. They can get a good price from domestic growers, because of poor economic conditions in Afghanistan, because they make offers that you cannot refuse, and because some of the population still genuinely supports them and freely chooses to sell at a discount.

Regardless of the profit margin, it's still pretty much their primary source of income. If they lose that, they're pretty much hosed.

I suppose the US could just buy out the Afghan opium market. But there is the potential that some growers might refuse the higher price out of loyalty.

F6's Editor said...

There is a third way to fix this issue.

America needs to admit that we are the ones who started the opium trade in the first place to get our people off of morphine addiction.

Then after admitting that we can decriminalize/legalize the plant production and require it to go through our processing plants where it can be turned into either building material or fertilizer and a few other forms of usable by products like maybe another source of bio fuel similar to ethanol.

Then not only do the farmers get their fair share of the production value but in turn we are eliminating a drug by turning its raw components into a strip mall, or jet fuel. That is how you eliminate the drugs and the Taliban in one fell swoop.

Phil Marx said...

Well, I've thought it over and decided I like the current system. Sure, we fail to take responsuibility for our own addiction and instead blame some poor ignorant farmer who is just trying to make a dollar a day to feed his family. And we murder people in other countries for supplying us, while basically slapping our domestic offenders on the wrist.

Of course this is all highly immoral, but it's damn good for the economy, and that's what we need right now. Trumped up wars and unnecessary prohibition are the best forms of economic stimulus known to man.

Tim Zank said...

Just curious, how many nations/country on the face of the earth allow it's citizens to legally use heroin and cocaine?

Robert Enders said...

Best answer I can give off the top of my head comes from Wikipedia, which I know isn't all that good of a source

A few EU and South American countries don't punish possession of small amounts for personal use.

In the United States, cocaine is legal for medicinal use: it is used as a topical anesthetic during eye surgery. Ritalin is chemically similar to cocaine, and experience cocaine users report that it produces the same high as their usual drug of choice.

Phil Marx said...

I don't know how many other countries allow these drugs to be used, but that really has little relevance. Each country should be allowed to decide which drugs are legal to consume. And if we are going to murder people there for selling to us, we should be at least as harsh on our own domestic offenders. Anything less than this is extremely immoral.

For the government,the war on drugs is not about protecting anybody, it is just about money and power. There may be some individual citizens who support this program with good intentions, but they are misguided in their thinking. These people think that making drugs illegal will keep their children from accessing them. Instead, it simply means that when they do access them they will often have to deal with dangerous criminal gangs to get them and thus increase their risk of being harmed.

The war on drugs also harms people like me, who happen to live in a very active drug neighborhood. Why should I have to suffer just so others can feel good about themselves as they pretend they are actually making a difference?

In case anybody doesn't realize it, you can easily purchase anything you want right in front of my home here in Fort Wayne. The guys mostly deal with crack cocaine and pot, but they will get you whatever you want. I was shoveling dirt one day and complaining about my sore back to one of the guys that was walking past. Ten minutes later, he returned with a pocketfull of what he claimed to be Vicodin pills that he tried to sell to me. These guys are very customer focused, and if you want heroine or any other drug, I am quite confident they will get it for you.

Tim Zank said...

The legalization of drugs, on the surface appears to be a no-brainer, I'm just a little leary of being the first nation to ever give it a whirl, ya know? Mankind has been self-medicating since time began and the only example that pops into my mind where a society just said "fuck it" do whatever you want is the fall of Rome as the result of booze & debauchery.

Maybe that's a bad example, but it may be worth researching the ramifications just for the hell of it.

Phil Marx said...


I agree with you that the issue should be seriously studied before making any rash decisions. There are a lot of unknown factors. Keep in mind that I have never said drugs should be legalized. What I have said is either drugs laws should be liberalized or we need to increase our funding for the war on drugs.

Note that the first option leaves room for degrees of change, rather than an all or nothing approach. I do realize that there is a difference between weak drugs and hard drugs. And we also have to realize that the spectrum is in a constant state of flux. If changes were made, we would have to be very specific. We can't just say all drugs are legal.

Regarding the second option, I know for a fact that the police do not have the resources necessary to eradicate this problem. This causes such extreme pressures on them that it opens the door to corruption. This corruption sometimes takes the form of them actually switching sides and entering the drug trade themselves, other times it simply takes the form of them shunning the citizens who are most in need of help because they know they can't give it. Between the aggressive drug dealers and the overstressed police, this creates a dangerous situation for people like me who have to bear the brunt of it.

All I am doing is offering my personal perspective. My home has been fire-bombed, my windows are boarded up, and I had to spend a thousand bucks to install security cameras. This was all a result of my fight to keep these guys from selling on or near my property. And the same police department that often seems to virtually ignore this problem also blames me for not doing enough to counter it.

Whether the prohibition of drugs is a real safety issue or just a moral crusade is irrellevant to the point I am trying to make. Many innocent people are made to suffer as a direct result of this war on drugs, yet these guys continue to smoke and sell crack regularly.

I am simply saying that the war on drugs is not working. I am very open to suggestions about how it should be changed.

Tim Zank said...

Phil, you definately have a unique "birds eye view" of the problem, no doubt. Seems there is no "easy" answer. I personally can't see the harm in decriminalizing marijuana and controlling it (age wise) like alcohol. The other drugs (heroin, cocaine etc) seem more problematic though.

I guess there's no easy answer, I sure don't have one.

Robert Enders said...

Rome fell because of a number of factors still debated by historians. Its decline took place over the course of several centuries. If you are worried about the US experiencing a similar fate, then you should look out for the day that foreign countries cut off their line of credit towards the US.

What if the federal government decided to legalize drugs, and left it up to the states to decide whether or not they want drugs legal within their own borders? This is already the case with alcohol, gambling, and prostitution. I highly doubt that any Midwestern state would be the first to take the drug laws off the books. But if California or Oregon decided to legalize a drug or two, the stoners that have been troubling Phil might decide to move to that state instead.

Phil Marx said...


If my constant bitching about the drug activities in my neighborhood implies that I think we should simply legalize all drugs, then I am being seriously misunderstood. I realize that doing this will be harmful to some people. I don't have an easy answer either.

Phil Marx said...


I tend towards favoring your idea of allowing the various states to set their own policy. What we are doing is obviously not working, yet every proposed solution has potentially great risks involved. Better to blow up a few small labs with our experiments rather than the big lab.

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